Objective: A qualitative study examining women's perceptions and experiences of routine enquiry for domestic violence in a maternity service.
Design: Purposive sampling was used to select a sub-sample from a larger group of women who participated in a domestic violence in pregnancy screening study undertaken at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals in London.
Setting: Interviews were conducted in women's homes and general practitioner's surgeries.
Sample: Ten women who experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months (including pregnancy), six women who experienced domestic violence in the last 12 months, but not in pregnancy, and 16 women with no history of domestic violence.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews conducted during the postpartum period (up to 14 months).
Main outcome measures: Women's views on the acceptability and relevance of routine enquiry for domestic violence.
Results: Routine enquiry for domestic violence in maternity settings is acceptable to women if conducted in a safe, confidential environment by a trained health professional who is empathic and non-judgemental. The effectiveness of routine enquiry to elicit a history of domestic violence is influenced by factors such as lack of time, confidential consulting time, continuity of care, training and availability of resources.
Conclusions: Further research is needed to determine whether the use of on-site specialist domestic violence workers will increase midwives' ability to routinely enquire about domestic violence.